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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  July 11, 2013 12:00am-1:01am PDT

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welcome to the program. i'm mat dowd standing in for charlie rose. we begin tonight with the ongoing battle over immigration reform. al hunt in washington d.c. talks with senator bob corker, and former g.o.p. congressman vin weber about the debate and what it means for the future of the republican party. >> again if you take the congressional budget office projections which the supporters of this bill has have taughting there's saying there's a 30-40% reduction in illegal immigration. it seems to me if you pass the bill what you've done is you've legalized illegal immigrants who are already here and then you've created this new illegal immigrant population with another demand for amnesty and legalization ten years down the road. it seems to me that this process of serial legalization and winking at the law is not a good one for the rule of law. >> whenever we argue for tax reductions particularly back in
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the reagan tax reductions we talkd about this huge underground economy that was created by too high tax rates and too complicatedded a tax structure. all those people were technically law breakers. i didn't hear a lot of conservatives arguing we can't possibly reduce tax rates and simplify the tax code because that will simply make all those people legal again. we said this is the way of putting an end to illegal activity generated largely by an unenforceable set of laws in this case the tax code. i think we have a similar situation with regard to immigration. we don't have a set of laws that can be enforced with people who are determined to get out of the situation they're in at home and want to come here. >> we continue with the discussion of morality and politics. i'm joined by frank bruny of the "new york times," karen tumulty of the "washington post" and film maker alex gibney. >> a broader question. is all of this going on with the scandals with anthony weaner and elliott spitzer and what happened with mark sanford more of a commentary about them or more of a commentary about us as a society? >> i think you could make either
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argument. what fascinates me is what it says about them or what it says, to be more precise, about the kind of people who are drawn to politics. if you look at the sexual scandals of all three of these men you see very narcissistic personalities. you see men who seem to need a whole lot of affirmation and attention. certainly and especially in the weaner case he's in cyberspace saying anyone out there want to admire me and feed my ego? they fall and then all of them want back in. i think because it's really hard if you're that personality type to give up the microphone. >> immigration reform, politics and forgiveness next.
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captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> i'm al hunt in washington. charlie rose is on assignment this week. the debate surrounding immigration reform is reshaping the nation and also the republican party. after the 2012 election, the prospect for immigration reform seemed more likely than ever.
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republican candidate mitt romney lost the hispanic vote by more than 40 perng points. it was a wake-up call for a party at risk of alienating a fast-growing slice of the electorate but eight months later the chances for reform look dicier. while a comprehensive immigration bill passed the senate with bipartisan support, house republicans are resisting. former president george w. bush has urged lawmakers to reach a positive resolution to the debate. but there are a number of other voices opposed such a measure. conservatives like bill crystal and rich laurie are arguing that house republicans should kill the bill. joining me now is senator bob corker of tennessee, one of the 14 republicans and the chief architect of that senate-passed immigration bill. senator, let me ask you from the vantage point of a conservative, why is that immigration bill the senate passed a good deal? >> you know, al, this has got to be the strongest border security
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bill that ever has been looked at and certainly passed. it's nothing short of a border surge. this bill scores from a c.b.o. standpoint. you put 46 billion dollars into putting all these security measures in place. c.b.o. scores 197 billion dollars coming back into the treasury. al, since i've been here, i've never had the opportunity to vote for a bill where you spent $46 billion making our country stronger and more secure and had $197 billion coming back into the treasury without raising anybody's taxes. i think from an economic standpoint, this is what a conservative should support. this is going to be a pro-growth policy. as a conservative republican i think this is sound policy. hopefully the house will make it even stronger. that's the way legislation
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works. they can look at the product we produce. they can start from scratch themselves if they choose to do that. i think we can end up with comprehensive reform that is great for this nation and makes it stronger which is what conservative republicans want to see happen. >> let me focus on the border security. two prominent conservatives this week, bill crystal and rich laurie the editor of the national review wrote a piece saying that the bill ought to be defeated and rejected. they say the border security provisions in the senate are riddled with loopholes and exceptions and that president obama can waive all those requirements. >> al, that has been so much misinformation about that. i wish people would just sit down and see look at this 115-page amendment. number one, you cannot get a green card nlts you go through five tangible triggers as a nation. one is you have to add the 50 miles of fencing that republicans have been pushing for, for years. you've got to have a fully implemented e-verify system in
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place. you've got to be a fully implemented exit-entry visa program which is a big problem for our nation today. you have to have $4.5 billion worth of technology that gives us 100% awareness on the border. you have to have 20,000 border patrol agents in place. there are no loopholes. people have been saying that from the beginning but candidly, al, the criticisms we're getting is that this is too much. it's a border surge. as you know, governor brewer from arizona has declared this a victory for arizona. the mexican government has protested over the strength of these boardedder security measures so, look, people... there are a lot of people, al, as you know, that just are not going to support immigration reform for whatever reason. but in this particular case, it cannot be about the border protection. >> senator, on that question though, how about the charge that president obama could waive the e-verify and other requirements the way he waived
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the obama care mandate for employers? >> that's why we crafted it the way we did, al. first of all, the money is all appropriated for this to occur. one of the criticisms in the past has been appropriators haven't funded the policies. in this case that's not possible. and secondly, if the president waives any of these things, then there is no green card status achieved so, you know, the trigger, al, is tangible. you can see it. every american can understand whether we've actually met these requirements. if the president were to waive these -- and by the way, president obama is only going to be here for three more years. we're talking about something that is 10, 12, 14 years out, ten years at a minimum -- but the fact is that these are tangible. unless these requirements are met, you cannot achieve a green card status. so i don't know how much tighter you could get. and one of the things we overcame in this debate was that
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very issue that you're getting at. how do we know that these are tangible, to we've achieved them and everybody in america can see whether that's the case or not? so i think we've done a good job of overcoming. again the house can make this bill better especially on interior security issues. i hope that they will. but i think this is a very good product. i know we can improve upon it and hopefully we'll end up with comprehensive reform. >> senator, some conservatives say the high-skill workers that you're letting in its a good idea. but the low-skill workers are going to bring a lot of pressure on low-skill current workers and drive down wages. >> yeah. krrk b.o. has looked at that. i know that c.b.o. makes mistakes, but we all rely upon it. there is some negligible, like one tenth of one percy fect in the beginning. but then over time wages increase. so, look, we have a problem in this nation. right now, al, people are especially at the low-skill level are being paid under the
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table. they're not a part of our system. any bill, there's going to be pieces that could be made better. but again i think the balance is good in this bill. again, the house can make it better. but, look, candidly, i think one of the problems that could be overcome is that i'm not sure that any of these quota levels are high enough. i mean, the reason we have so many illegal immigrants in this country is we had more people wanting to work here than we had slots available. so we ended up having people who didn't go through the legal system as a result and so from my perspective, what we need to look at doing is maybe raising some of the quotas. so, i think that's going to end up being a bigger problem down the road and hopefully again we can address it through the house and in conference. i reject that argument. >> let me bring in some politics. senator, laurie and crystal say you can take back the senate, you being the republicans in 2014. why not wait until then with a
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republican house and you can pass a bill that's better for conservatives? >> you know, al, you know, i deal with issues as they come up. so we had an immigration bill for republicans and for democrats worked together for a long time to bring to it the floor. the opportunity is here today. i think it's time for us to solve this problem. and people are always saying things like that. look, i came here to solve problems. this has been a major problem in our nation for a long, long time. i had the opportunity to play a constructive role in advancing a piece of legislation that, as i mentioned, can be made even better. i'm glad to have done it. you have to take advantage of those opportunities when they arise. the senate has done that. hopefully, the house will take action. >> and what do you say to those republicans who say you're just going to create a whole bunch of new democratic voters?
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>> again, al, i came up here not about politics. i came up here trying to put good policies in place for our nation. and at every level, economically , fiscally, securitywise, morally, this, to me, was the right thing to do. and people are always calculating politics. i've always said that good policy is good politics. if i ever lose sight of that and start thinking the other way, i think it's time for me to go home. >> senator, finally, as you look across that chamber to the other side, the house, the reports are pretty pessimistic, what is your expectation as to what the house is going to do in the ensuing months? >> so, al, i actually am not near as negative as other people are. i mean, the way legislation works, as you know, the house can pass a bill that maybe deals with border security, maybe it deals with high tech workers. maybe it deals with other
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aspects of immigration where there's a lot more, you know, solidarity, if you will. when they pass the bill out, you end up having a conference. so, look, i think that the house really wants to do something on immigration. i don't think they want to just stall. i think they may well pass something out. when they do, you have a conference. certainly the house's imprint on it will be huge, but you can end up in conference coming out with something that is even a better product than we have coming out of the senate so i know there are people over there who really want to try to solve this problem. i've spoken with a few of those. hopefully they will carry the day. so i'm a little bit more optimistic than most on this. certainly i hope that as a body collectively, we'll rise to the occasion and put this behind us. >> senator corker of tennessee, you sure were a key figure in this bill. we thank you very much for your time. >> al, always good to be with you. thank you.
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>> with me now are two important conservative thinkers: vin weber, a leading political strategist and former member of congress, ramesh pan uwe rue a writer for the national review and bloomberg view. they agree with each other 97% of the time. we have fortunately found one of the 3% of the issues upon which they disagree, namely the immigration reform bill passed by the senate. you heard bob corker. he said basically it's a good bill. it's going to actually help the treasury and it's going to secure the border. >> yes. and i think that all of those claims are dubious. you know, the congressional budget office did their budget estimate. basically what they found is if you exclude the two largest federal programs, you've got a positive impact on the treasury. but that's not the real world. they did an artificial wind owe where they exclude when these immigrants retire and they're likely to be net drains on the
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treasury because it is a heavily low-skilled population. and these are redistributive programs. you have a redistributive federal government. >> aren't all new workers draining the treasury? >> if you want to make the argument that senator corker is making that we need to bring in these people in order to improve our fiscal situation, that's an argument for moving towards a more high-skilled immigration flow. because, yes, immigrants can help. but it depends on what you're taking and the c.b.o. says this will be more low-skilled than high-stilled individuals. >> you're not convinced that the $46 billion is really going to buy much more border security? >> you know, the amendment that senator corker put on was all about border security. but 40% of our illegal immigrant population are people who come here legally and overstay their visas. no amount of activity on the border is going to prevent that. >> vin weber, you're a long-time
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bloomberg contributeor. tell us why your colleague is wrong. >> this bill is not perfect. not every claim made for it is perfect. but the c.b.o. study does talk about enhancements to economic growth. i think that's beyond dispute that immigration will contribute to economic growth. what you're saying is the contributions to growth don't produce a revenue flowback that exceeds the expenditures we're going to make on these people when they retire which is exactly al's point. that's an entitlement state problem on which you and i probably agree. we have too many benefits we promise to workers whether they're immigrants, low-skilled, high-skilled or anybody else over the long term. we ought to fix the entitlalment culture. i agree with that. we look at japan and place like that and we find out with economies that stagnate for lack of population growth. there was news just out today that the united states population growth is declining again. we're not quite as bad as europe
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and japan but we need additional workers. we need more high-skilled workers but we also need low-skill workers. the entire american economy will not be high technology. we have an increase in agriculture. we still need low-skilled workers too. ingly a lot of native-born americans don't want to do those jobs. on balance this is a good bill for the economy. the problem of excessive expenditures through our entitlement programs is a problem we can agree regardless of what we do with immigration. >> the congressional budget office is suggesting that under this bill our immigration, legal plus illegal, over the next ten years would be double what it's been over the last ten years. it seems to me that that is a solution to a problem that doesn't actually exist. we have had a extremely loose labor markets for several years. we have high unemployment. we have particularly high unemployment among people who are low skilled. in these circumstances to say we need more workers, we need
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slacker labor markets i think it's a hard case to make. i would also point out that even though there's a bipartisan consensus that senator corker reflected for more immigration every poll i've seen when you ask people do you want more or less immigration, the less side wins. i don't see why the public preference on that shouldn't be accommodated. >> the border security became a huge issue in the senate. is that driven by politics? is that driven by reality? it strikes me that the... that illegal immigration, people coming across the border illegally are more a function of the mexican and the u.s. economy than whether we have, what, 20,000 additional troops on the border. >> of course the facts are that we've seen a decline in immigration from mexico over the last several years and basically a stable rate for about the last three years. you're right. it's largely due to the basic basically the deteriorating economy in this country and some improvement in the mexican economy. long term if the mexicans have a
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strong economy a lot of this problem goes away or goes away substantially. i think that there's a legitimate argument to be made for doing more to secure the borders. i think in my view we're going to extremes on this bill. i'm diametrically opposed. i don't know where you are on this. some of the critics say it doesn't do enough in terms of border security. i think we're doing an awful lot in terms of border security. we're going to have a 700-mile fence along our border which is every inch of the border that can reasonably be fenced. we're going to deploy droans and sensors of different types. it's a big investment in securing the border. i think that it goes actual he'll further than we need to go since it's almost, in my judgment, impossible to totally secure an almost 2,000-mile border through deserts and mountains and things like that. but some reasonable increase in security along our border and certainly monitoring of it makes some sense to me. >> we're going to have almost as many people on that border as we
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do in the d.m.z. the mexicans aren't the threat the north koreans are, are they? >> let's get back to this point that everybody talks about border security but about half the problem isn't at the border. this bill creates these new temporary worker programs and doesn't really have strong enforcement for people who stay over past their term. that's one of the reasons why the congressional budget office was saying at most this bill reduces illegal immigration by 50%. at most. and part of the reason is they're saying people are going to overstay that temporary work program. >> ramesh you have written that some of the opposition to this bill is cultural and that's okay. >> that's right. i think there is a tendency in the political conversation to think, oh, culture, well rchtion that gets you too close to race. of course there is a sort of racial undercurrent sometimes that ought to be resisted in these debates. but i think that assimilation is important. it's fundamentally a cultural process where newcomers come and
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become part of our culture even as they change it. there's a shared sense of belonging. natives and newcomers alike see themselves and see one another as part of the same community. i think that's an easier process when you've got a smaller flow of immigration. it's not an accident, i think, that lot of the a simulation of the last big wave of immigration from 100 years ago happened from 1925 to 1965 when you had negligible immigration level. you need either a pause or at least a reduction in order to promote, shall we say, the cultural digestion of the newcomer. >> go slow, in other words. yeah. we agree on a lot. we don't agree on the conclusion of whether or not this is a good or bad thing. throughout all of american history the positiveness of america has been defined by immigration. i think and i agree that immigrants coming here are going to change the culture of america just as my mother's irish ancestor changed the culture of america and my father's german ancestors changed it in positive
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ways. sinclair lewis wrote a famous novel in the early part of the 20th century where he talked about his hometown. he made reference to the dirty immigrants with different languages and different religions on the outskirts of town that were going to change everything in episcopalians. he was talking about germans, scafned they'vians, lutherans and catholics. they did transform the culture of minnesota. we're no longer the culture of yankee immigrants who came there from new england. i don't think it made things work. it might have made things better. if you look at the positive aspects of the cull fewer and the people coming to this country. they have a high and growing rate entrepreneurship, almost double over the last several years. they are somewhat more religious than native born americans. they have a strong sense of family. i think that that's all good. we know that immigrants send to be more nationalistic than people who have been here for a long time. they're willing to risk to come
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to this country. i don't know they're going to change the culture. i don't deny that people in communities that are affected by this incur some difficulties. i've seen it in my home area in the midwest but on balance i think immigrants add to and enhance our culture by changing it. >> ramesh? i agree that immigration has been a very happy experience for this country historically. it doesn't follow from that that more is always better. it doesn't follow from that that we can't have a more intelligent policy that tries to make the immigrant experience better for our country. and i would just point out again that one of the reasons some of those previous waves of immigration worked out so well for this country is, one, we had a cultural emphasis on assimilation that is i think weaker nowadays. two... >> why is it weaker? i think... when the italians came there wasn't really a totally smooth assimilation. >> that's true. and it wasn't in some ways as
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welcoming as we've been to today's immigrants. but there was more of an emphasis on the idea that you've got to learn english. you've got to become part of the new national mainstream that you're joining than i think there is today. >> i think learning english is really important. i think it's less of a problem than a lot of people are afraid that it is. i did a project a long time ago that took me down to miami on behalf of the aspen institute. we lookedded at all the immigrant communities. one of the things we asked them about was this problem, problem, of people not learning english. everywhere we went, whether it's the haitian community or the cuban community or the non-cuban hispanic community, everybody say don't worry about it. the second generation always wants to learn english. i think that's true throughout history too. yeah, i want to see them learn english. i'm not against anything that has it more intensely taught. i think they're going to want to learn english. >> there's the famous store eye of ma ferguson who ran for governor of texas three quarters
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of a venturi ago. she said if english is good enough for jesus christ it's good enough for texas school children. let's talk about the politics of this. we talked a lot about the substance. your editors said what really should happen, republicans might take back the senate in '14. let's kill the bill in the house and postpone it because then we can go and pass a bill that is more to the liking of conservatives. still going to have barack obama in the white house. >> still have barack obama in the white house. still powerful forces that want a bill more or less along the lines of the current one. i'm not sure that that's a real prospect. on the other hand, i don't see the urgency of passing something right now. i mean as vin was taig illegal immigration has been dropping recently. there doesn't seem to be currently a great need on part of our economy to have all of this new labor when we can't get employment for the people who are already here. so i do think there's been kind of a false atmosphere of crisis.
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that has contributed thinking we have to pass something right now. >> first of all i think bill and rich are off base on this. they've said for sure nothing is going to happen for three-and-a-half years if we follow their prescription because that's how long barack obama will be here which means no change in any of the policies that people are interested for the next three-and-a-half years. change comes in their editorial only if the republicans take the white house and both houses of congress and maybe by 60 senators. it seems like they're saying this may never happen. i think that's a mistaken way of looking at this. there's an argument actually perversely because we said as difficult as this is, this is the right environment in which to try to change immigration bills because it has to be bipartisan. i understand that sounds a little odd right now because we're facing these great difficulties. senate democrats can't come to terms with the house republicans but at the end of the day on an issue like this, we would be better off if we had a bipartisan bill that would asome
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of the concerns ramesh is raising on border security and things like that while establishing a path to legalization and citizenship for immigrants. it can probably be better done with both parties having a stake of the action. >> you both are strongly committed to the rule of law. i know that. so there are 11 million people here undocumented illegals, whatever one calls them, how does this all affect them? postponing, acting, whatever have you? >> well,. and rule of law. right. again, if you take the congressional budget office projections which the supporters of this bill have been to youing, they're saying there's a 30-50% reduction in illegal immigration so it seems to me that if you pass the bill, what you've done is you've legalized illegal immigrants who are already here. and then you've created this new illegal immigrant population with another demand for amnesty and legalization ten years down the road. it seems to me that this process of serial legalization and winking at the law is not a good
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one for the rule of law. >> serial legalization? well, first of all i come back to quha you said a min i ago. there's no urgency to solve this problem now. we don't quite agree on that. there's no urgency to solve a problem ten years from now, now, we can deal with that further down the road if we have to. i will make an analogy. because people are here illegally we shouldn't solve the problem by making them legal. there's an argument that conservatives should understand. whenever we argue for tax reductions particularly back in the reagan tax reductions we talked' this huge underground economy that was created by too high tax rates and too complicated a tax structure. now all those people in the underground economy were technically law breaker. i didn't hear a lot of conservatives arguing we can't possibly reduce tax rates and simplify the tax code because that will simply make all those people, make all those people legal again. we said this is the way of putting an end to illegal activity generated large by an unenforceable set of laws in
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this case the tax code. i think we have something similar to that situation with immigration. we don't have a set of laws that can be enforce ed with people who are determined to get out of the situation they have at home and want to come here. >> i agree. you guys are supposed to be disagreeing. >> i have no objection to offering legal status to people who have been here illegally but i want that to be part of a bill that actually solves the problem. it's not just a question of solving problems ten years from now. it's a question of creating a problem ten years from now. let's not do it. >> we're on to politics. there is no one more identified with this bill than marco rubio. it may not have occurred in the senate without mark marco rubios involvement. you both follow republican politics carefully. is this a plus or a minus for him as a presidential candidate. >> i think it's a plus. i think it will be a significant plus if we actually accomplish the legislation. i understand he's alienated some parts of the conservative base.
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that seem to be the base. the bigger stakes for him in my judgment are for a relatively new young united states senator to take on a major significant issue and take some political risks in trying to solve a major significant problem. that's a big thing. i think that it's going to serve to benefit him over the long term. i think it will serve to been him him a great deal if we actually pass the lemg layings and see it signed into law. >> that could turn out to be right but i thrill his up side is limited by the fact that, yes, it's the big issue but it's a big issue that's a low priority issue for most voters including for most hispanic voters. the down side for him is although you can look at other republican nominees who have gotten the nomination even with problems with parts of the base -- john mccain in 2008, for example -- none of them running quite as far to the right in the primaries as we assume rubio will do. that's what makes this interesting as a political test case because he's going to be running as somebody as far as i can tell who is down the line
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with the base except on this issue. >> he's already doing that on abortion, for instance. >> exactly. you know, one of the interesting arguments in the lowrie-crystal piece, whether you agree or disagree with it, it was provocative way, hey, the politics of this are exaggerated. there's no senate candidate in 2014, republican senate candidate who is going to lose because he didn't support or she didn't support immigration reform. i think that's probably true but look at the numbers. it is the fastest growing slice of the electorate and polling data shows that unwith of the reasons republicans did so poorly or romney did so poorly among asian americans which are higher income and should be more natural republican voters was this sense of it's an anti-immigration party. in the long run nationally this is really a problem for republicans, isn't it is. >> even though i agree on the bottom line that i don't think this legislation is is way to go i think they're underplaying the political difficulties that republicans have. if they don't appeal to hispanics, blacks and asians.
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it can't continue to be an all white party or an almost exclusively white party going forward. i think republicans have obsessed about immigration as the key to making a breakthrough on some of these issues when in fact i think that there's a lot of evidence for example that the hispanic voters want to see a different approach on health care, a dimp approach on the economic agenda from republicans and it's not just hispanic voters. >> vin, that's the argument that some analysts are looking at. they're saying, look, that's fine but they are going to vote democratic for the foreseeable future because of all these other issues. >> first of all, i would like to emphasize the reason to pass this bill in my view is because of the economic and social benefits it had bring to the country not because of the politics of the republican party which are mixed on this, i think. but i want to point out first of all it wasn't terribly long ago that we did reasonably well and were gaining with hispanic vote. george george got 44% of the
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hispanic vote. there's reason to believe that we can compete in this community. the last two elections have not been good. i think there are other reasons for that. over the longer term, michael barone wrote a long time ago about comparisons of ethnic groups and argued that the hispanic community was more like the italian community which started out as a very democratic constituency. as they assimilated and moved up the economic ladder they started voting more republican. more like them than unfortunately the african-american community on which republicans seem to be shut out completely. i want us to appeal to the african-american vote too. i'm a jack kemp republican in that regard. i don't want to shut out the hispanic community the way we have been shut out of the african-american community. that's my fear in this debate. i think we can compete. i certainly think we can compete long term. it won't be because we passed an immigration bill bull it removes a big argument that allows republicans to get to the things...
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>> it gets you in the door. ... where we can talk about issues where these communities do agree with us a lot more. >> i think it will matter for that purpose. house republicans are against this ill bill, why? if they are, under no circumstances will we ever grant legal status to illegal immigrants who are already here, i think that is a problem. i don't think that is something that is going to be compatible with the long-term growth of the party. >> let me ask you both then the final question. you follow this very closely. the house is, you know, meeting on wednesday about this issue. the house republican caucus. what do you think is going to happen in the house over the next couple of months? >> look at the last time immigration reform passed the senate on a bipartisan vote compared to today. republican support was higher than it is now. republican support for this type of approach to immigration is dropping. i don't think the house passes something that is is similar to the senate bill. >> do they pass anything and they go to conference? >> i think right now that is looking unlikely. >> vin? i wish i could argue that
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point but i'm afraid that's the way it looks to me too. the politics of this in the the house, in my view, have changed rather rapidly just in the last six weeks to eight weeks. maybe even less than that. i'm not 100% sure why. a couple months ago if you had asked me i would say the leaders all understand it is very important to pass this bill. somehow they're going to stitch together a majority to get it to the conference or maybe the senate. maybe they will. senator corker seemed to be more optimistic in his conversation with you. my political judgment has to be in line of ramesh's. it's looking tough. >> it is looking very tough. but my instincts tell meal somehow it won't die. >> i hope you're right. can't tell you why, but i can tell you this has been a fascinating conversation. it will be a fascinating couple months ahead. thank you both. >> thank you. s for having us. wo new york politicians are trying to stage political comebacks from scandals involving mayor tan infidelity.
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anthony weaner has announced his candidacy for new york mayor while elliott spitzer is running for the office of city comptroller. only a few months ago former governor of south carolina mark sanford who left office following his own sex scandal was elected into congress. are americans becoming more accepting of this behavior in their elected officials? however according to a recent gallup poll, marital infidelity remains one of the last taboos for americans with 91% deeming it morally wrong. on other social issues too we seem to be going in opposite directions. while laws are becoming increasing lie progressive on gay marriage laws on abortion are getting more restrictive. what is the relationship between our personal morals and the extent to which we hold politicians accountable to them? joining me now from washington is karen tumulty, a political correspondent for the "washington post," and joining me here in new york is frank bruny, a columnist for the "new york times" and alex gibney, a director and documentary film
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maker. welcome. >> thank you. frank, i wanted to start with you. i find it interesting that all four of us grew up catholic and we're talking about redemption and forgiveness so that may come out of this thing. a broader question is all of this going on with the scandals with anthony weaner and elliott spitzer and what happened with mark sanford more of a commentary about them or more of a commentary about us as a society? >> i think i could make either argument. what fascinates me is what it says about them or what it says about the kind of people who are drawn to poll politics. if you look at the sexual scandals of all all three of these men you see very narcissistic personalities. you see men who need a whole lot of affirmation and attention. weaner is in cyberspace saying anyone out there want to feed my ego and admire me. they fall and all of them want back in because i thrill it's hard if you're that penlt type to give up the microphone. one of the things we should talk about as we go forward larger
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than the three cases alone is what they suggest about the kind of people being attracted to politics in the television and internet era. and whether that is serving our process very well. >> karen, i'll pose the same question to you. you wrote last week about the redemption of elliott spitzer. is it about them or is it about us? >> since ear all coming at this from the catholic tradition i think it's not about redeption. it's about indulgences. i think it's about us. i spent a lot of time in south carolina earlier this year. ultimately and of course the great watershed was bill clinton. i think ultimately voters in particular look at these guys and then they first question, they ask themselves, what else have we got? ultimately, i think that if you have a candidate or a public official who first of all has an opponent who people find more unacceptable, i think people are then willing to sort of put
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everything else aside as long as they think the guy has suffered for it and as long as they think he's sort of gotten the message. i think that's a thing that perhaps weiner is having the most difficulty clearing that threshold. >> that's one of the questions i wanted to talk about in a minute: the trail to redemption. what are the steps we think people have to make? alex, you've done a number of documentary films, client 9 about elliott spitzer's fall which now we're rehashing again. you also did one on the catholic church obviously related, not politics per say. do you thrill it's a commentary about these individuals or it's a cultural discussion about where we are as a society. >> i think it's both. i mean, to carry forward the catholic theme, i mean, one of the great advantages of being a catholic is you would go into the confession booth, confess and everything would be good. you say a few hail maries.
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the republicans for a long time had that down. you just pray to god and god forgives you and you can move on. the democrats somehow seem unable to perform that confessional role. but i think it's about us. it's tricky though because sometimes these things seem toen rage us in terms of violating some fundamental sense of right and wrong, in terms of, you know, infidelity. but at the same time there's every bit of evidence that we're often able to separate these out, these matters out from policy issues. and so i think on the other hand with the politicians i think narcissism is part of the job description. clearly. >> there are degrees though. we can try to get the less narcissistic. >> but i think that's where you begin to have to ask, well, what else have they got? if it's a given that they've got narcissism, what else are they bringing to the table? that's where for me i think it's interesting about elliott spitzer. i mean a lot of people are very
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angry about what he did still. but they also recognize that he has a lot of expertise particularly in the area of the political economy, and he's asking to be comptroller. then you have to look at anthony weiner. what qualifications does he have for mayor exactly? that's the question. >> well and going to the narcissistic theme. frank, in one of the lines of your column you wrote that this is maybe more about the celebrity than it is about virtue. >> weiner's success thus far in the democratic primary. everyone is saying why is anthony weiner, according to one recent poll, running stronger in the new york mayoral democratic primary than the other two up there? part of what you're seeing is name recognition. this is a really large field. a lot of the candidates are well known to us write about it but not to average new yorkers. name recognition goes a long way. one of the curious aspects of the whole anthony weeber bid is is celebrity its own reward even
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though it's for the reasons he's famous which is that he sent a crotch shot across twitter to all the world. i also wants to mention though something alex brought up a really good point about the qualifications and the job. you said we're going to be talking a little bit about the road to real demtion. i think one of the key differences in the way people are going to react to it is weiner fell from his job, a job he was not particularly good at by a lot of accounts. now he's asking two years later for a promotion. he wants to be the mayor of new york city which is way more powerful than just a congressman. elliott spitzer, whatever his end game is, he's will to go take a huge step backward from governor of the state to comptroller of the city in order to get back into public life. i think there's a chance people will over time respond much more positively to that because it suggests whether genuine or not i understand that i did wrong and i have paces to go through. i have a pen as to pay. >> what's disqualifying anymore for a politician, somebody running for office on a personal failing? people used to say if they did
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this, there's no way they could get elected to office. bill clinton checked that box and said that's no longer applicable. mark sanford. you could explain the way the fact he was running in a republican state. normally anybody said if he's taking this long walk and he ends up in brazil, a hike on the appalachian trail. >> a new definition of hiking. is the frame of reference the relativeness on personal morality -- karen, i'll ask you this -- much, much different today than it might have been 50 years ago? >> well, i think, first of all, don't forget what we have learned about a lot of politicians who were our heroes 50 years ago. i mean people now, you know, have discovered things about, you know, presidents 50 and 6 years ago that were not known to the public at the time so i think that kind of lays this sort of "everybody does it" premise? >> well, i have a feeling, and not in these specific cases but to sort of always drop a bigger lens on this, is that in many ways this is a commentary on our
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institutions in society and somewhat a crumbling nature of many of our institutions. i was fascinated by the gallup polling which they've done this polling over time which was it was much more unacceptable 50 years ago to get a divorce than it was to have an affair. people judged one much more morally unacceptable. today it's much more morally acceptable to get a divorce. it's much more morally unacceptable than it was to have an affair in the course of a marriage. that may be a commentary. how do people approach marriage today than they did 50 or 100 years ago when today it may be about happiness and love and then it may have been about structure and security. >> these things are always shifting. we always redefine these things. to the point of our discussion which is how do they affect the political realm, what i find interesting and going to karen's point which i think is fascinating is that, yeah, we're learning a lot about j.f.k. and frk d.r. and some of these other people. imagine if the withering gaze of the media was directedded at
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them with the ferocity that it is today. in a way we're almost getting to a healthy place now. it's obvious that sex scandals sell papers or they sell advertising for tv shows but it's also being used for very cleverly. i looked at this with elliott spitzer by political consultants to do nasty stuff. to the extent that people are able to separate personal matters from political issues, i think we're all going to be better for it. >> it's that intersection where you have a problem. we always used to argue in the cutting room which was worse clinton or spitzer from a public policy standpoint. it was bill clinton having oral sex in the oval office while he was allegedly talking to republican congressmen. that didn't take that much intellect alial acumen. can we separate out personal indiscretions from political matters and whether do they overlap? if we can get to that point we'd be much more better off.
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>> frank, is it a disqualifying... what disqualified somebody from holding office? if elliott spitzer had absconded with state money that would probably be disqualifying because it's related to his job. >> it might be but going back to something karen said earlier, it all matters by your choices. you matthew over the years are one of the very smart political consultant strategists to said to me when i've said can so-and-so bin x-election you said tell me whom he or she is running against. voters are practical and have limited choices. i don't know if we can say that x-thing would disqualify because it depends on the circumstances of that race. >> part of the what's going on here is we have such a negative view of politics and we have such a distrust of government that it's basically like, well, what difference does it make if i vote somebody in office that's like... >> these people have the cushion of our cynicism. >> absolutely. there's been a lot of discussion lately with the n.s.a. situation about privacy and leaks.
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this is the subject upon which you are an expert. i think all of us are kind of realizing to a certain extent in this world where privacy is going away that if anyone turned a magnifying glass to us we have such a pattern of imperfection in our own lives that i think it has inclined us to be a little more generous and for giving of public leaders. that said, these people are asking to be public leaders and asking for the public trust. there are some questions i think we can ask about these sin scandals, and whether that should disqualify them. take clinton. one of the things that i think people were legitimately bothered by was the recklessness of what he did. for get about the sexual morality of it. he had to know if he got caught it would throw the country off any further discussion for a solid year will it did. that is is something worth voters being concerned about. >> john edwards... these guys run knowing this. is there some reflection they ought to at least pause and say
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how is this going to affect my small family as opposed to what am i going to do big? >> yes, and i think if they were normal people they would. but i think politicians are wired differently than the rest of us. there is sort of a void to their existence if they don't have sort of the constant adulation. if they aren't sort of in this role of, you know, they say public servant but also, you know, the kind of adoration and attention and power that goes with it. because i think for particularly for politicians there is just no other rush that comes anywhere close to the kind of rush that you get from being in political office. >> i think one of the other things about the narcissistic personality and the politician. wouldn't it be nice if we could get to a place where, you know, you could imagine running for office without seeing your
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private life utterly investigated in every aspect but i think to some extent the people who are running as politicians now almost welcome that. bizarrely... >> like the reality tv show. it's like a car dashians but people running for office. >> with an interesting twist. right? (laughing) keeping up with the weiners. (laughing). >> i think with an interesting twist because i think they almost always get caught because they almost want to get caught. it's that flip side that psychologists talk about. >> i disagree. i suspect they do this because they see a lot of other people around them not getting caught. so they are going to be the occasional, you know, smart... because you do always ask. i mean, how could you not have seen the last ten people in a row who have fallen victim to this exact same thing. i think it's because they note that in their world there are a lot of people who get away with this stuff and get away with it
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it for decades. >> i think karen is right. two other things. the same lust they have for potency makes them prey to a feeling of omnipotence once they get it. i also think that they have strived very hard to reach this high station. they've got all this power. or the illusion of it. they have these audiences. they don't want to deny themselves anything. you know, a common businessman can have an affair without fear and can kind of reap the quote unquote benefits of his standing they want to get all the spoils that they can get. if they deny themselves some of this other stuff just because they think they're going to get caught they're not fully exploiting their power and position. >> one other topic that i think that i mentioned at the start of this going to a changing nature of the views is the arc on gay marriage that all of us have seen talked about and you've written about, is going seems to be going in a different direction on the laws that the arc on abortion is. there seem to be passing each other. they're not going together as like a progressive arc.
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they're going... why is that? >> i think there are a great many reasons for that but one that always strikes me is i think opponents of abortion and people who want to restrict or roll back pro-choice laws i think they have attraction opponents of gay marriage don't have for one reason. it is hard to make the argument that anybody suffers when you make gay marriage. there are some who say this is a threat to the traditional family. with a number of divorce politicians its hard to make that argument. there's this group of people, gays and less beians saying please let us marriage. it's hard to say who is losing out in that. if you believe that life begins at conception, if you have questions about at what point of development a fetus can be said to have an identity or feel pain, you can't just kind of give up because you think there is another side to this, to have abortion rights there is a victim. there is a loser if that's your belief. i think that means we'll always be more divided on abortion than gay marriage. >> karen, do you think that part
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of this is related to science, that the science related we now are rolling back people's viability on... as people are pregnant, it keeps rolling back further and further? >> i think a little bit but also i think that the abortion opponents did, you know, they started focusing on this even in the 1980s with the film silent scream. but the fact is public opinion on abortion has not changed a lot. since just a few years after roe v. wade was decided. and the fact is you do have the absolutists on the pro-choice side and the absolutists on the right to life side but most americans there is a middle ground, a very conflicted mid ground where most americans find themselves, where they want abortion to be available in the early stages of pregnancy which is when almost all of them happen but they don't approve of a lot of the reasons that people get abortions. the other thing that is very, very different, if you look at
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the polling on abortion from, say, gay marriage, is there is not that kind of generational divide. young people, their feelings about abortion are not that different from people over 65. you don't have this kind of younger generation coming along that is changing things. >> alex, you're finishing up a dong eumentary about lance armstrong and everything that happened with him. not related to him. the path to rehabilitation, is it similar for, do you think for athletes that it is for politicians? again does it depend on the circumstances of it? there was a scandal who wasn't related to what he was doing on the field. he seemed to come back, a five-game suspension and he's back. lance seems to be slightly disimpt because it was related to something he did on his bike. >> getting back to the catholic theme of the show, i think it does have to do with perceive penance. the extent to which we believe that somebody actually
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acknowledges that what they did was wrong and expresses that, you know, and expresses that in a public way so that they can convince us rather than, well, i'm only telling you this because i got caught. >> you don't think his... look, i think the problem with the oprah interview as he himself acknowledged was that, you know, he said that she asked him about 2009 and his comeback. he said, well, if i hadn't come back in 2009 and people hadn't started to look under the hood we wouldn't be talking today. in other words, i wouldn't have admitted it so everything would have been fine in effect. >> do you think or agree that a big part of the path to redemption has to do with... >> the genuineness of your contrition. there was something not quite right about the oprah interview. it felt dutiful not like it was coming from deep in his heart. >> karen, do you agree that authentic penance has to be
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involved? >> i think authentic and i think also the length of penance. app knee weiner, it feels like yesterday. it's just been two years. with elliott spitzer it's been five years of rehabilitation. i do think the amount of time is also on almost a proxy for how sorry you are. >> well, i appreciate your time. thank you, frank. thanks, karen, and thank you, alex for being here. >> thank you, matthew. .
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